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Rural News

‘Forever Chemicals’ Seep Into Michigan’s Water (and House Races)

Roll Call | Posted on October 10, 2018

Years after the Flint water crisis drew national attention, another water pollution issue has emerged in House races in Michigan. Residents are growing concerned about human exposure to so-called forever chemicals, known as perfluoroalkyl or polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS. The chemicals, linked to health problems such as hypertension in pregnant women and a higher risk of developing certain cancers, have been found in groundwater and drinking water systems across the state.Along with other water-centric issues springing up through the summer, including an outbreak of lead contamination in Detroit public school drinking water systems, the current of bad news about Michiganders’ water has made the issue a “powder keg” in the election, said Bob Allison, deputy director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters.


Pre-Existing Conditions Are a Thing in Pet Insurance Too

Pew Trust | Posted on October 10, 2018

California’s pet insurance regulations, which experts peg as the strictest in the country, owe their existence to a dearly departed golden retriever named Bodie. It was Bodie’s death more than a decade ago from blood cancer, and his owner’s subsequent tussle with a pet insurance company for reimbursement of medical expenses, that led to the legislation requiring California’s pet insurance rules today. But outside of the Golden State, pet insurance is governed by a loose, state-by-state set of regulations that vary widely, experts say. Mostly, they come under general insurance regulation and often are governed under the property-casualty umbrella rather than the health insurance category.That can leave consumers navigating an insurance labyrinth on their own when collecting on claims or in other disputes with the companies.“It can vary dramatically, state by state,” said Kristen Lynch, executive director of the North American Pet Health Insurance Association (NAPHI), a consortium of the largest pet insurance companies in the United States and Canada. “California is the only state that has a law that guides pet insurance. Other states have tried it, but none of those has passed yet.”


Minnesota grant program offers money, and legitimacy, for urban agriculture

Minnesota Post | Posted on October 10, 2018

Urban farming in Minnesota reached a milestone this summer, when the state announced the first round of grants for agriculture education and development projects in cities. It’s the first time the state has allocated money specifically for urban agriculture, and it took several tries to get the legislation passed. Michael Chaney, a long-time advocate from north Minneapolis who founded Project Sweetie Pie, a grant recipient, said he approached lawmakers with the idea about four years ago. At the time, he saw plenty of interest in urban agriculture — but not the kind of financial support that exists for rural farmers. “I was disenchanted and discouraged,” Chaney said.Advocates said state investment is crucial because it lends credibility to what Chaney calls the “changing face of agriculture.” Such state funding, even a small amount, can usher in a shift toward seeing urban areas as potential farms and their residents as fellow food producers.


How young Iowans in one small town could land jobs paying $75,000

Des Moines Register | Posted on October 10, 2018

This north-central Iowa town of about 4,200 people faces many of the problems other rural communities face: Shrinking population, deteriorating downtowns, aging homes and consolidating schools. But a unique agreement with a Des Moines technology consultant could change its future — and possibly provide a model for revitalizing other rural Iowa communities. Pillar Technology plans to open a $1.7 million office in Jefferson and hire up to 30 workers. Jefferson, in turn, will build a new career academy that begins an intensive student software development training program that feeds the company's workforce pipeline. The payoff for high school students is a chance at Pillar jobs that pay $75,000 per year by the time they're in their early twenties. It's twice the average pay rural Iowans receive.This north-central Iowa town of about 4,200 people faces many of the problems other rural communities face: Shrinking population, deteriorating downtowns, aging homes and consolidating schools.But a unique agreement with a Des Moines technology consultant could change its future — and possibly provide a model for revitalizing other rural Iowa communities.Pillar Technology plans to open a $1.7 million office in Jefferson and hire up to 30 workers. Jefferson, in turn, will build a new career academy that begins an intensive student software development training program that feeds the company's workforce pipeline.The payoff for high school students is a chance at Pillar jobs that pay $75,000 per year by the time they're in their early twenties. It's twice the average pay rural Iowans receive.


Abrupt release of hundreds of migrants in Phoenix is 'start of dam breaking'

NBC | Posted on October 10, 2018

Hundreds of migrant families seeking asylum in the U.S. were released from detention in Arizona this week without warning and without instructions on where to go, how to find relatives or travel to their court hearings. A senior Department of Homeland Security official told NBC News the release is "the start of a dam breaking" as family detention facilities, which now hold thousands of migrants, reach capacity.U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers are releasing the families from detention en masse without following their usual protocol that ensures immigrants have a means to travel to their court hearing and reunite with potential relatives in the U.S.The adults have ankle monitors to track their whereabouts until their scheduled court date to make their case before a judge for asylum.


USDA launches interactive tool addressing opioid epidemic

High Plains Journal | Posted on October 8, 2018

Assistant to the Secretary for Rural Development Anne Hazlett announced the United States Department of Agriculture has launched an interactive data tool to help community leaders build grassroots strategies to address the opioid epidemic. The opioid misuse Community Assessment Tool enables users to overlay substance misuse data against socioeconomic, census and other public information. This data will help leaders, researchers and policymakers assess what actions will be most effective in addressing the opioid crisis at the local level.The Community Assessment Tool is free and available to the public. It can be accessed on USDA’s Rural Opioid Misuse Webpage or at opioidmisusetool.norc.org.USDA’s launch of the Community Assessment Tool closely follows President Trump’s declaration of October as National Substance Abuse Prevention Month. Approximately 72,000 Americans died from drug overdoses in 2017; 49,000 of those deaths involved an opioid. Many of these deaths have been fueled by the misuse of prescription pain medications. The severity of the current opioid misuse crisis requires immediate action.


Partnership helps to expand broadband service in Illinois, Iowa, and South Dakota

Ag Daily | Posted on October 7, 2018

There are more than 19 million people living in rural America who lack access to a broadband internet connections, including about 22 percent of people in rural Iowa, 36 percent of people in rural Illinois, and 25 percent of people in rural South Dakota. A partnership between Microsoft and  an Illinois-based wireless internet provider hope to cut into those numbers at least a little. On Thursday, the agreement with the Microsoft Airband Initiative and Network Business Systems to deliver broadband internet access to about 126,700 people in those three states was announced.On Thursday, Network Business Systems Inc., an Illinois-based wireless internet provider, and Microsoft Corp. announced a new agreement to deliver broadband internet access to rural communities in Illinois, Iowa and South Dakota, including approximately 126,700 people who are currently unserved. Network Business Systems will construct and deploy wireless internet access networks using a mix of technologies including TV white spaces — vacant spectrum that can travel over long distances and rough terrain, including the heavy foliage that is common in the Midwestern landscape. But it will take time, and the projected completion date is July 4, 2022.


Tech Giant, Local Agencies Work to Bring Broadband to Rural Virginia

Virginia Public Radio | Posted on October 7, 2018

Southern Virginia's economy has been devastated by the loss of the tobacco and textile industries that sustained it through much of its history. Now with the help of a corporate giant, local innovators are trying to remake part of Southside in the image of the digital age.Microsoft first came to Southside Virginia when it picked a location in Mecklenberg County for a new data center in 2010. As that center has grown so has the company's interest in supporting digital infrastructure growth and education in Mecklenberg and surrounding counties. That's why the company made this one six regions nationwide to take part in TechSpark.“It's a civic program aimed at creating job growth and economic opportunity in rural localities,” says Jeremy Satterfield, TechSpark's Virginia Manager. The primary focus right now is technology training and addressing the region's critical lack of broadband access.   “We have a TEALS program. It's housed at Bluestone High School. They will be beginning their second year this year in the TEALS program,”  Satterfield added.


Business Council passes Wyoming broadband plan

Wyoming News | Posted on October 7, 2018

During a special meeting, the Wyoming Business Council approved the Wyoming Broadband Advisory Council’s plan to enhance internet access in the state.The broadband council was established during the state’s most recent legislative session through Senate File 100, allocating $10 million for broadband improvement projects and outlining strategies to help maximize funding distribution.


Get more headlines like this via email Oregon Wildlands Protection Bill Moves Ahead in Senate

Public News Service | Posted on October 7, 2018

A bill to protect thousands of acres and miles of river in Oregon has passed out of a key U.S. Senate committee. The Oregon Wildlands Act, introduced by Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, both D-Ore., would designate more than 200,000 acres as wilderness and national recreation areas and add more than 250 miles of wild-and-scenic river protections to the state. Much of it is centered around the Rogue River, one of the original eight to gain wild-and-scenic protections 50 years ago, but Robyn Janssen, director of Rogue Riverkeeper, said those protections only extend a quarter-mile up the waterway's canyons, leaving much of the area vulnerable to development."The forest and wild lands way up on the ridge tops above the river aren't protected," she said, "and those really important tributary streams that feed lots of cold, clear water into the Rogue and support our amazing salmon fishery, those tributaries aren't totally supported and protected."The bill would add acreage to the Wild Rogue and Devil's Staircase Wilderness areas and wild-and-scenic river protections to western Oregon rivers. It also would give recreation-area protections to the Molalla and Rogue rivers.The bill, Senate Bill 1548, represents more than 20 years of negotiations, and backers have said it would conserve lands integral to Oregon's recreation economy, which generates $16.4 billion annually in consumer spending and supports more than 170,000 jobs, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.


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